Could team leaders be more confident about fostering accountability?

What makes the biggest contribution to making sure that management policies translate into action on the ground? It’s not policy documents and directives or even the internal communication system – it’s the ability of first-level supervisors to foster accountability in their teams.

According to ACAS, these people have the greatest influence on staff performance, motivation and engagement with the organisation.  After all, those day-to-day relationships are what really create the working environment for most staff – not top management objectives and initiatives.

Very often, people get promoted to a supervisory role because of their understanding of the task the team is doing, rather than because of their people skills. Two comments I heard on my last Communications Skills for Supervisors course sum up the problem for many team leaders, who feel they are always trying to get the balance right somewhere on a see-saw between being “too nice” and “too nasty”:

⦁   “I don’t think I always make myself clear – I hate upsetting people”

⦁   “I’ve been accused of picking on people”.

At one extreme, supervisors who don’t want to create a bad atmosphere avoid holding people accountable for their performance, and may even avoid setting clear targets and goals. At the other, team leaders can come across as too confrontational and, at worst, open themselves up to accusations of bullying.

There may be an underlying assumption that we have to “get tough” on people to solve performance problems – and that this will damage working relationships. In fact, the opposite is true. The most effective supervisors are those who are able to hold people accountable for their performance in ways that actually improve relationships and build team harmony and effectiveness.

Is there someone in your organisation who would like to brush up on their communication skills? I’ll be teaching Communications Skills for Supervisors again at Bath College in May.  Here’s the link.

Communications Skills for Supervisors

I’m delighted to have been invited to run another Communications Skills for Supervisors course at Bath College in May.  This may be for you if:

  • You are new to a team leading role
  • You are unsure how to tackle a team member who is not meeting performance or behaviour expectations
  • You’re concerned about your communication style being too vague or too aggressive.

Participants are welcome to bring their specific concerns to the table. Issues we tackled on the last course included:

  • telling someone they have a hygiene problem
  • responding constructively to an aggressive colleague
  • managing people who are older or more experienced
  • changing a communication style that was perceived as bullying

The most effective supervisors are those who are able to hold people accountable for their performance or behaviour in ways that solve problems without creating new ones. Because they are skilled at doing this they can set clear standards and targets for their teams, confident of meeting them.  It is this ability that separates the leaders of the most productive teams from the rest.

Course content includes: assertive communication; the accountability cycle; how to prepare for difficult conversations;  understanding motivation and capacity; creating a pleasant and productive working environment.  There’s also a personal assessment of your habitual communication style and how you can develop different approaches.

Here’s a link with some more information.